Research quest: Influential people in their historical context

Famous people inspire us. Instead of following the standard and being driven by the latest and greatest, they are guided by instinct and value instead.

Yet, their influence on us and the world doesn’t come from nowhere: Their behavior is intentional, their achievements being the result of conscious actions and habits. They focus on their ways to create the outcomes they desire – if their time hasn’t come yet, often for years and years before their intentions gain traction. They are not afraid of taking risks and making decisions, constantly learning and growing with integrity and honesty. They gather people around them that help them reach their goals, thereby adding value and purpose to their life as well. They are the ones seeing possibilities and opportunities where others flounder in fear of the future.

Objectives: What can we gain from observing them?

By studying their lives and surrounding, we might weigh up their convictions1a conviction is a strong moral belief with our own ones. We learn to question ourselves: What is it that I can contribute to this world? We might learn something about resilience and achieving great things against any kind of obstacles. By questioning their motives, we add value and purpose to our lives, asking ourselves what our possibilities and opportunities are.

When we present their lives of highly influential people to others, a simple list of dates and events is not enough. We need to tell their story, to get to the bottom of what it actually is that we can learn from their achievements.

Methodology: How do we proceed?

When we prepare and study the life of a highly influential person, the following questions can help us to fathom what it is that makes them great.

Focal points

  • What is / was their family background? How did they grow up? What do we know about their time in school, their interests at an early age?
  • What were the challenges they had to face? What did they do to overcome these challenges?
  • What were the historical circumstances; what were the people around them doing; how did politics and the rules of their respective state influence what they were trying to achieve?
  • What do you consider to be their biggest achievements? And with which arguments can you prove your point?
  • What did you personally learn from their life and their story?

Our sources and information material

Usually, an internet research can yield a great number of information about a particular person. What you should consider analyzing – online or offline – are the following sources:

  • Interviews
  • Biographies
  • Videos and documentaries (e.g. on Youtube)
  • Information e.g. on Wikipedia.

Presentation style

Less is more. Use no more than five slides to tell their story. Instead, focus on making your deliverance and your lecture great. Again: Do not list any biographical details and dates, unless they add up to the overall story. Include quotations and anecdotes to bring your particular character to life.

For my students:

There is a special course on memorizia that deals with this Research Quest. For each week, you will find there what you have got to do in your „home“ lessons.

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